Thursday, December 17, 2009


I can honestly say that I deeply regret not giving this class the attention it deserved during the semester. These past few months have been pretty rocky and hectic for me, and it was hard to focus my attention on much of my studies. The work that I did during the semester I really enjoyed, and I have actually enjoyed the many hours I spent catching up this week- I may have been frustrated with myself at times, but I enjoyed the work. Looking back on all of the varied assignments we've tackled, it's hard to believe that we packed all of that material into one short semester. This class has been a great source of discovery for me. I learned much more about the vast world of theatre than I had ever imagined that I would before its beginning. I feel so much more confident about my place in the world of theatre than I ever did before this class because of all of the information I learned here. I have been exposed to more theatre professionals, more artists, more forms of theatre, more aspects of theatre, and more ways that theatre relates to life than I have ever been exposed to before. I feel much more knowledgeable about the industry and how it works, and just what it takes to get a show to the big stages in New York. I feel like I can speak more intelligently and in a more informed manner about productions that I see and the analytical side of the plays and works that I read. The analytical and critical thinking skills worked on in this class will benefit me for the rest of my life. From now on, I will not simply read a script once and take what I can from those initial impressions. I will go further from there; I will open it, devour it, dissect it, and live in it until I have the best possible understanding of the ins and outs of the story and characters. This level of deep understanding will bring my art and my performances to a new level of authenticity. Because of the understanding we gained of how each theatre professional works within the theatre world has given me a deeper appreciation of the people who perform these jobs in my life. Because I now know just how much responsibility and professionalism is involved in each job related to the theatre, I can now fully appreciate their importance and how vital each member of the team truly is to the success of a production. I also learned how important it is that each member of the team have a full understanding of the script. In my work before, I honestly considered analytical work to be work for the actors and director to do. I now realize that in order for the designs to be really the truest they could possibly be to the script, the designers must have this deep understanding as well. In addition, in order for the technicians like the tech director and the stage manager to understand the workings of the show, they should do analysis of the script as well. If everyone involved understands the script fully, there will be a more unified vision. This class has helped me grow into a fuller, better, and more well rounded theatre artist. It has also given me the opportunity to hone skills that will be extremely beneficial to me in the future. The ability to analyze a text will be of utmost importance in my future in psychology. I have also realized from this class just how much theatre truly relates to life as we live it every day. Each piece of theatre, from the very realistic to the very abstract, offers us lessons for life and shows us how the world around us works through unique and individual artistic lenses. These unique perspectives offer insight to and comment on just what it is to be human. I have gained, during this class, a much deeper appreciation for the stories that all types of theatre have to offer us. I feel that I will come away from this class having grown as an artist, as an individual who has a better understanding of what it is to live fully and truthfully, and as an individual who can use her art to convey that understanding to others. While giving me more information and knowledge than I expected, the class also gave me a healthy desire to keep learning. I am no longer content to sit on the knowledge that I already have; now I am ready to build upon the "foundation" (heh. heh.) that I have built in this class and continue to grow as a student of the theatre for the rest of my life.

& , Nikki

Costume Design: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rain

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rain is a very interesting ten minute play by William Eno. It is simply two actors portrayed onto a giant screen by a camera. They are each making a dating service video, and through their alternating monologues, we learn who they are, what they fear, what they love, what they want, and their philosophies. The characters are simply referred to as "gentleman" and "lady." There seems to be nothing all that extraordinary about either of their appearances. Both characters give me a sense that they are kind of nerdy or at least dress fairly conservatively. Their dress would also be relatively understated and maybe a little bit old for their ages. They are both young, probably in their early or mid twenties.

Lady: I see the lady in a modest skirt. Brown, knee length, and maybe made from corduroy. She would also be in a scoop neck or not-so-low v-neck pale blue short sleeved shirt. She would be wearing a cream colored vintage cardigan with blue flower details. As her shoes, she would have on brown flats. Her hair should be long, and either worn straight down or in a medium height ponytail. In terms of jewelry, she would have a blue beaded necklace falling just at the collarbone.

Gentleman: The gentleman would be in blue jeans. The jeans would be dark wash, not too loose fitting, and with no holes. They should be just the perfect length. He would have a green dress shirt on, with a matching tie and a brown sport coat. He would be wearing traditional brown loafers on his feet. Instead of dress socks, he has on white socks.The fact that he is in jeans and a sport coat instead of dress pants with the sport coat would probably show to the audience that he wanted to look good from the waist up especially for the camera. He would be wearing black framed glasses.

Theatre in LIFE!

We can relate many of the different aspects of theatre to so many different facets of our daily lives. The exchange of energy that is so vital to the art of theatre happens each time you engage in a conversation with another individual. The energies that you bounce off of one another and how you react to those energies can influence the direction of the conversation, just as the energy exchanges in a live performance can dictate how well that performance is received and how well it goes for the performers. We each play different roles in our lives, depending on what situation we are in. Everyone plays different versions of themselves among friends, among relatives, in the workplace, etc... This can be compare to taking on different roles as an actor. In an even stronger connection to acting, we all have had times when we had to do something that we really didn't want to. In these times, we often act, and pretend that we are enjoying the activity more than we really are. As rebellious teenagers, we often get very good at being actors, especially when it comes to our parents. I for one wish I could put the performances I gave for my mother during my younger adolescence on my resume-they were some of the most convincing performances I ever gave. The symbolism and gestures that are necessary to theatre also play a large role in our lives. I am constantly using symbolic gestures in my day to day; from giving handshakes, to hugging, to waving, to throwing up the peace sign, to displaying obscene gestures in traffic, I use symbols and gestures to express my thoughts and feelings constantly, much in the way that theatre artists use them to express ideas or concepts. The primary function of the theatre, to tell stories, is wildly apparent in my daily life. The first thing I do when I get home in the evening is tell Will a story about how my day was and listen to his story. I hear stories from friends, from relatives, from strangers even. Often they are about mundane subjects, but they are always interesting, because they are the real life events of a real person; this is what theatrical performance-even the most abstract- strives to tell. People are all almost constantly in a state of storytelling. Even without speaking, our body language and face often tells the story of our day, our emotions, or even our lives. One of my favorite hobbies is people watching. I love to sit in a park or restaurant and read the people around me. I use their "costume"- how they are presenting themselves, their symbolic gestures, their movements, and their facial expressions to tell myself their story. I can watch as an outsider how each person relates and connects to the others around them, much like an actor should connect to the other characters onstage. The art of theatre itself is based on its function as a metaphor for real life; the stories and sagas that we observe in the theatre are meant to comment on and instruct us in life. Theatre naturally relates to the daily lives of people because it is meant to represent the art of fully living.

Theatre and Music

The two disciplines of theatre and music are inextricably linked to one another. Music simply cannot exist without some form of theatre; theatre, while it can exist without music, is enhanced ten fold in the presence of music. As a former music major, I chose to minor in theatre as a supplement to the training I would receive in the music department. I chose to stay in theatre for my new major, but that's a different post. In order for a musician to be the best musician they can possibly be, especially in the case of a singer, it is necessary that they have at least a fundamental understanding of what it is to be an actor. Musicians are actors; they bring a story to life in the form of a performance. As a singer, I felt that in order to be a singer worth my chops, I needed to be an actress as well. If a singer has the ability to extract a story from the music, create a character to tell that story, and be able to convey all of the emotions of that character in the singing and the movements and expression, the performance is made one hundred times more moving and more powerful than if they were to simply sing the notes and rhythms properly. Instrumentalists could also benefit, perhaps even more so, from theatrical training. Instrumentalists do not have the benefit of text to convey their story, so if they are able to create a story, a character and a unique voice for their instrument, it will facilitate the storytelling that is an essential element of live music performance.
On the other side, theatre depends very heavily on music to add to the depth of its meaning. Often, directors and sound designers will choose music to play during a scene in order to comment on the action or to add to the mood and tone of the scene. The proper music can take a scene from just a typical conversation to a whole new level of emotional power. Music can add suspense, tension, a sense of tranquility, or any number of other tones to a scene to which it is added. If you were to take the music away from any given moment it is written into, that particular moment would have a giant piece missing; music conveys feelings and senses that spoken word often lacks the ability to state.
Music and theatre are linked in the way that they are performed and how the performers connect with the audience. Most of the time, these arts are performed live in front of crowds, and there is little or no direct contact between the audience and performer(s). The exchange comes in the form of what is called temporal interplay. There is an exchange of energy that flows from performer to audience and back, and that energy can make or destroy the performance in both cases. Both of these arts are performance arts- they rely on an audience to make them come alive. They are also linked to each other in that, when combined, they make each other come alive.

Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury has been a prominent actress in movies, on stage, and on television for seventy years. She was born on October 16, 1929 in London, England. The daughter of an actress, she was enrolled in the Ritman School of Dancing and then the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art. Just before the Germans bombed London, she and her mother and brothers managed to move to North America. They fled to Montreal, and then moved to New York City. From New York, they moved West to Hollywood. Here, she met Mel Ballerino, the man who would cast her in her first film roles. Her first appearance on screen was in the 1944 film Gaslight, for which she received nomination for Best Supporting Role for her portrayal of Nancy. She was also featured in The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945, for which she received a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She went on to a great deal of success in both film and on the stage. Notable film appearances include her role as Ms Iselin in the Manchurian Candidate, for which she won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress, her role as Miss Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and her voice role as Mrs. Potts in The Beauty and The Beast. In all Angela Lansbury has appeared in fifty-two films, been nominated for twelve awards for these roles, and won five of these awards. Her first role on stage was in 1957 on Broadway in Hotel Paradisio. Her musical debut was in Anyone Can Whistle, the musical by Stephen Sondheim. In 1966 she won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for her part as the title role in Mame. Other stage roles include Mama Rose in Gypsy, for which she won the Tony and the Drama Desk Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical; Mrs. Lovett, for which she won another Tony and another Drama Desk Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical; Madame Arcati in The Blithe Spirit, for which she won the Tony and the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play; and Madame Armfeldt in a Little Night Music, which she is still performing in at 84 years of age. In all, she has been nominated for ten awards for these roles, and has won eight of those awards. Lansbury's success has also been extended to television. Her television debut was in 1982, when she played Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in a miniseries called Little Gloria...Happy at Last. She portrayed Jessica Fletcher, crime writer, in a television show called Murder, She Wrote from 1884 to 1996. This is perhaps the role she is best known for by the general public. She has done several other shows, miniseries, and guest appearances since then, most recently appearing on Law & Order: SVU as Eleanor Duvall, a role for which she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama. Over the years, she has been nominate 28 times. She has won at least five of these awards, which include Emmys, Golden Globes, and CableACE Awards. In 1995, Lansbury was named a Disney Legend. She has a star on the Walk of Fame, and she received the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, New Dramatists Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, The Acting Company's First Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, The Actor's Fund of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Miami, and a George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement. In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Angela Lansbury a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

The great expanse of this woman's work and the many many honors that have been bestowed upon her over the years speak to just what an incredible artist she is. Her versatility and talent have carried her through role after role through the years, and her talent and charm only grow with her age. She still possesses that adorable smile that made casting directors love her so much in the 40s and 50s. She has the warm voice of a mother figure, both in speaking and singing, that makes audiences trust her and root for her implicitly. She has an approachable and relatable beauty and charm that has given her a special place in the hearts of the American people. Whether you knew her first as Mrs. Lovett or Jessica Fletcher or Mrs. Potts (like me!), you loved her. She was even adorable and charming and motherly as the maniacal Mrs. Lovett. She brings a certain something special to each role, and Broadway will lose one of its most legendary and gifted performers when she is no longer on the scene.

Set Design: Gossip!

Gossip!, a new musical by Joe York, is set in a high school principal's office. The entire play takes place in the office. There is no need for the set to change ever, so there would be no need for moving set parts.
The back of the set is a series of flats that create an olive/army green colored wall. This wall is lined from left to right in gray filing cabinets about five or six cabinets high. There are three windows along the wall, above the filing cabinets- left, right, and center. They are barred. Mid stage left, there is a large dark wooden desk, totally covered in stacks of papers and a large computer. Behind the desk is a very large and comfortable looking desk chair. Center stage there is a rather large wooden coffee table painted 70s orange with a few books or magazines on it. There are low blue benches on either end of the coffee table. Mid stage right there is an "L" formation of arm chairs-one line facing left and one line facing front. There would be five or six chairs in each line. The chairs are in varying colors-purple, blue, green, red, yellow, orange. The wild color scheme-or lack thereof- gives the sense that the principal is trying to relate to the young people, but isn't really succeeding very well. There should be general clutter about. A trashcan should be placed next to the desk- your typical olive green metal wastebasket. In the beginning, some students need to be sitting outside the principal's office. This effect could be achieved in a regular proscenium style space by creating a small 8 foot by 3 foot platform that would extend out from the stage on the far stage right. It would be wooden and painted to match the stage. Four chairs matching those inside the principal's office could be placed on this platform.

Playwright: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, famous Victorian-era author and playwright, wrote many works beloved by generations. He was writing during the 19th century in an era when literature and education finally began to be available to the poorer classes. He was writing short stories, plays, and poems that all of the people could enjoy, instead of just the rich and educated.
Wilde came from a line of men who traditionally held the plight of the poor in mind. His father, for instance, was a renowned doctor who specialized in ear and eye diseases and felt that some sort of provision should be made for free treatment of Dublin's poor population. He also opened St. Mark's Ophthalmic Hospital at his own expense. His mother was a gifted linguist who wrote revolutionary poems for the Irish newspaper The Nation.
In school at the Portora Royal School, Oscar excelled. He moved on to Trinity College, where he earned the highest honor the college could bestow on an undergraduate. He received a scholarship and attended Oxford, where he received a Newdigate prize for his poem, “Ravenna." In 1881, after Oxford, he had his first book, a collection of poems simply called "Poems," published. It was received with mixed reviews from critics, but helped to advance Oscar's writing career. He then engaged in several lecture tours, traveling the United States, Britain, and Ireland. He continued writing during this time as well.
On May 29, 1884, Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd. The couple then had two sons, one in 1885 and one in 1886. In order to pay the bills, Wilde had to take a job managing the Women's World Magazine until 1889. After his stint with Women's World, Oscar experienced wild success in his writing career. Starting in 1888, he began publishing a series of stories, books, and plays that would solidify his place as a great writer. "The Happy Prince and Othher Tales," published in 1888, and "The House of Pomegranates," published in 1892, were collections of children's stories. His only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in 1890 in America to a tremendous uproar. The implied homoerotic theme of the book offended and was considered immoral by the Victorian sensibility. His first play opened in February of 1892 to wild financial and critical success. It was called "Lady Windermere's Fan," and its success prompted him to keep writing plays. He published "A Woman of No Importance" in 1893, "An Ideal Husband" in 1895, and his best known work "The Importance of Being Earnest" in 1895.
Each of these plays were wildly successful and cemented Oscar Wilde in his position as a great playwright.
In 1891, Oscar took a lover- a young man by the name of
Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas. For four years, the two men were inseperable. In 1895 he was arrested and convinced of gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years hard labor. After his prison term, he wrote “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a response to the agony he experienced while in prison. It was published in 1889, shortly before Constance, who had taken the children to Switzerland, died. He spent the next years traveling rather aimlessly around Europe, never really writing again. He developed meningitis and died on November 30, 1900.
The work of Oscar Wilde appeals to me because of the context in which it was written. He was writing plays and stories with the knowledge that they would be read by common people, with common ways of thinking. I think he played on that context, using his wider, poorer audience to enhance his success. He appealed to the senses of humor of the common people. For instance, "The Importance of Being Earnest" offers people in lower classes the opportunity to laugh at those in the higher class and the utter frivolity of their lives. I feel connected to the story of Oscar Wilde and his work because I admire his respect for the working and poorer classes. I believe that he wrote with the plight of the poor in mind, as his father worked with the plight of the poor in mind. I admire Oscar Wilde because of his refusal to pretend to be something other than what he was. He chose to be unapologetic for who he was, even in the face of danger. He had something to say about the time in which he was living, and I think all could benefit from listening to what it was. His work continues to speak to us through the ages, and his story continues to inspire.

Sweeney Todd; The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sondheim hit a home run with this dark musical, which is in contrast to a great deal of his work and most of what usually plays on Broadway. The musical, which won the Tony in 1979, is based on a play of the same name from 1973 written by Christopher Bond. It opened on March 1, 1979 at the Uris Theater. The show ran there for 557 performances. The original cast included Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, Len Cariou as Sweeney Todd, Victor Garber as Anthony, Sarah Rice as Johanna, Merle Louse as the Beggar Woman, Ken Jennings as Tobias, Edmund Lyndeck as Judge Turpin, Joaquin Romaguera as Adolfo Pirelli, and Jack Eric Williams as Beadle. Lansbury was replaced in March 1980 by Dorothy Loudong and Cariou was replaced at that time by George Hearn. That year, the production won eight Tonys, having been nominated for nine. Included in the wins were Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Lansbury) and Best Actor in a Musical (Cariou). The show opened in London's West End on July 2, 1980 at the Theatre Royal and ran for 157 performances. The first national tour began in 1980 and starred Angela Lansbury and George Hearn. This is the version most were familiar with prior to the film, and this is the version that recieved the most critical acclaim. Since the seventies, there have been multiple adaptations, tours, and Broadway revivals. There was a revival in 1989 on Broadway and in 1993 in the West End. There were two more revivals, one on Broadway and one in London, in 2004 and 2005. There was also a Canadian and U.S. tour happening in 2007-2008 starring Judy Kaye and David Hess. Among the most noted adaptation is the film version directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. This brought the musical into the mainstream, and bolstered its popularity among young people.
The story of the musical focuses on a barber named Benjamin Barker who goes by the alias Sweeney Todd. He has returned to London after being exiled on trumped up charges for fifteen years. He is brought back by Anthony, a young sailor. He meets Mrs. Lovett, a pie shop owner, and she gives him a room above her shop. Here he begins his barber business again. Mrs. Lovett learns his identity and he learns that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge and that his daughter, Johanna, is now the judge's ward. He swears he will get revenge. He starts using his barber shop as a means to kill people, working all the while toward getting the judge in his chair. Mrs. Lovett thinks his hobby is pretty alright, because she uses the meat from the bodies in her meatpies and becomes the most successful pie maker in London. At one point, Sweeney kills a rival barber who discovers his true identity, and he and Mrs. Lovett take on that rival's apprentice, Tobias. He becomes like a son to Mrs. Lovett. Anthony, the young sailor, sees Johanna from her window and falls in love. He vows to rescue her from the clutches of the judge as well. Sweeney's obsession with revenge eventually turns on him, and leads to the demise of everyone he loves and himself.
The musical score is by far the most difficult of Sondheim's. The harmonies are tight and clashing, and the melodies are sometimes harsh. All of the musical stylization adds to the violent, dark, and frightening feel of the entire show.
Stephen Sondheim says that what this show boils down to is obsession. It is the story of a man consumed and destroyed by his unwavering obsession with revenge. There is a lesson in this for us. We are to "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd", which means that we must listen to his story and be aware that we must guard ourselves against the same kind of madness.

Set Design: The Consul

The Consul is an opera by Gian Carlo-Menotti. It is set in a post-WWII Eastern European country that is unnamed, but we know it is extremely oppressive. In representation of the oppression and despair of the people, the set is very minimal and very dark and depressing looking. There are two settings within the show. The first one is the Sorels' apartment, where Magda, the mother, John, and the baby live. The second set is the Consulate. Both should be dark and dingy.
One thing that would remain constant between both scenes would be the back wall. It would be painted to look like concrete and have one door in the center, and one window on either side. The windows would have black iron looking bars. The door would have no windows-just a solid wooden door.
The floor would be painted to look like a basic wooden floor, dark in color or very rough and old looking.

For Magda Sorel's apartment, the windows would be covered in brown curtains. There would be a basic four legged kitchen table mid stage right, painted a green/gray color. Around the table, four rough-looking mismatched chairs. In the down left corner, there is a beautifully crafted cradle, symbolic of the hope of youth and of the prosperous life they once had before oppression. Beside the cradle there is a rocking chair. Against the back wall on stage left is a long, wide bookshelf, used for housing props such as the candlesticks and telephone used by Magda. To the left of the door, between the door and bookcase, is an antique gas heater. The rocker and bookshelf would both be in the green/gray color of the table. The cradle would stay in its original wooden color.

The Consulate would have the same four legged gray/green table, but it would serve as the secretary's desk instead of a kitchen table. It would sit up right at an angle. The gray/green book case would be at the same angle up left, and would have two stools in the gray/green color. It serves as a writing desk. Along stage right and stage left, there are six chairs on each side, facing inward. These are the "waiting" chairs where the people wait to see the Consul or the secretary. The curtains from the apartment are removed.

Theatre and Psychology

While many people involved in the theatre department here are convinced that I am a major, I am in fact only a theatre minor. My major has recently become Psychology. The world of psychology fascinates me, much like the world of theatre. Both disciplines are extremely varied in the number of ways that you can involve yourself. Just like there are multiple disciplines in the theatre, such as acting, directing, and designing, there are multiple alleys in psychology as well. There is clinical, occupational, childhood, forensic, etc... There is so much to learn about both fields that anyone could spend the rest of their lives learning new and exciting information about either discipline. In that same vein, both fields are always changing. In theatre, there are always new innovations, better technology, new stories, new concepts; in psychology, the science is always moving and advancing, and our understandings are becoming deeper every day. This is what keeps both theatre and psychology so very interesting-you can never ever learn everything there is to know. There is always plenty of room for growth and development.
The theatrical world, just like the psychological, gives us a great look into the psyche of mankind. Through the ages, the kind of theatre produced and the content of that theatre has always given a unique insight to the thought processes of the society. In psychology, we are given a similar opportunity to peer into the inner-most workings of the human brain. In both instances, we sometimes find exciting material, and sometimes we are disturbed by what we find, but we always are left with a more enriched understanding of what it means to be human.
It is important for any performance professional to have some familiarity with and understanding of human psychology. I think it would be beneficial for actors to take at least an introductory psych class, if not a few extras such as abnormal psychology (especially if preparing for a role in which this applies) or personality theory. In order to bring characters fully to life on stage, it is important that the actor understands how human psyches work- things like what pushes us, how we can be influenced by factors such as stress and trauma, and how relationships play into who we are and how we act. Psychology can inform an actor when he or she needs to portray a person with a psychological disorder or someone directly interacting with someone with a psychological disorder.
Just as an understanding of psychology can benefit a theatre artist, an understanding of theatrical elements can benefit a practitioner of psychology. Much of psychology involves an exchange of energy between clinician and client or patient. If the clinician is familiar with theatre, he or she may be more able to bounce their energy off of the client or use the clients energy to decide how to go about the interview and which tactics will be the best. Sometimes, a psychologist's job involves a bit of acting. If a clinician is called upon to do an evaluation of a criminal and that criminal is dangerous and confrontational, the psychologists will have to fool the person in a way so that the subject will trust the clinician enough to put his or her guard down. The subject must believe that the psychologist is on his or her side. In this instance, a familiarity with the theatrical would be quite beneficial to the psychology professional.

The Public Theater

The Public Theater in New York City is a theater that has several branches in New York. The Shakespeare in the Park branch performs free Shakespeare in the outdoors, and the Public Theater keeps ticket costs low through donations and patrons. In a sort of mission statement, the Public Theater says this about what they do: "Fifty years ago, Joseph Papp founded The Public Theater with the belief that Shakespeare belonged to the people. From that simple vision grew a vibrant theater where all of the world's voices, rhythms, and cultures converge. The Public is dedicated to embracing the complexities of contemporary society and nurturing both artists and audiences through productions that reflect the city it serves-diverse, brilliant, raw, and alive. As a community of artists, The Public stays true to Joseph Papp's legacy by continually recreating itself and evolving within its mission to always be a place of inclusion and a forum for ideas." Another mission statement reads this way: "As the nation's foremost theatrical producer of Shakespeare and new work, The Public Theater is dedicated to achieving artistic excellence while developing an American theater that is accessible and relevant to all people through productions of challenging new plays, musicals and innovative stagings of the classics."
Currently the Public seems to be mostly producing new plays, with its current season full of world premiers such as "The Brother/Sister Plays Part 1 & Part 2", "Idiot Savant", and "The Book of Grace" to name a few. The Shakespeare in the Park branch is doing a rotating repertoire this season, performing The Merchant of Venice and The Winter's Tale on alternating nights.
The Public theater fosters a constant commitment to new and emerging talent in actors and technicians alike. Encouraging new artists has been a part of their philosophy from the very start. They encourage young actors to send unsolicited headshots and resumes, and promise that every one will be hand evaluated and considered for current and future castings. This commitment to young talent is what inspires and draws me to this particular theater. Also, the Public offers a Shakespeare Lab, which is a tuition free professional development program for actors who already have professional credits. It offers the opportunity for an actor in the professional world to learn and grow by studying classically under some of the most respected authorities in classical acting- and they get to do it for free. This program and the fact that it is available tuition free shows a real commitment to the art and to the artists. The theater engages in multiple community outreach programs, committed to bringing Shakespeare and theater to the schools' students. It brings free performances of Shakespeare to students, as well as exciting opportunities to interact with the performers and learn about the theater and acting.
The theater was originally founded as the Shakespeare Workshop by Joseph Papp. It is currently under the artistic direction of Oskar Eustis and the executive direction of Andrew D. Hamingson. The Public has won a total of 42 Tonys, 149 Obies, 40 Drama Desk Awards, 24 Lucille Lortel Awards and 4 Pulitzer Prizes. In 2005, the theater won a special Drama Desk award in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

The Importance of Being Ernest: A Review

Early in the Fall semester, IUP's Theater by the Grove presented a performance of Oscar Wilde's classic play The Importance of Being Ernest. The show was directed by Barb Blackledge, and the cast included Will Weimer as John Worthing, Addam Wawrzonek as Algernon Moncreif, Erica Pealstrom as Gwendolyn, Amanda Hohman as Cecily, Kayleigh Thadani as Lady Bracknell, Kait LeRoy as Miss Prism, Chris Anthony as Dr. Chausuble, Tyler McPherson as Lane, and Ashely Whitesel as Merrimen.
I thought that overall, each actor had a very strong understanding of the script and the dialogue that they were saying. The language was not all that different from the language of today, but there were some differences, and the actors managed to make the dialogue easy for the audience to understand as well. This shows that they had a good understanding to begin with. For the most part, each actor had a strong connection with their character and the other actors onstage. In particular, the proposal scene between Gwendolyn (Erica) and Jack/Ernest (Will) went very well because of how skilled the actors were at bouncing their energy off of one another. Throughout scenes in which Miss Prism and Dr. Chausuble were involved, you could always tell that there was an energy between them, even when they were not speaking to one another. All of the actors had developed very specific mannerisms that were consistent throughout the performance. Addam's Algernon, for example, had a great deal of gesticulations and ways of walking and moving about that were very specific to that character. This shows that his character was very fully developed and he was connected. Also, Chris's Chausuble had an unmistakable set of mannerisms that were very specific, very consistent, and very well thought out. They gave his character a full sense of life. Whenever Lane came onstage, he brought a whole new kind of energy with him. Will made great use of expression in his Jack; while his physical movements were not as noticeable (because his Jack was very upright and moved with purpose), his facial expressions were very helpful in conveying his characterization. I thought that the cast worked very well together as an ensemble; each actor bringing his or her own part to the whole, to make a unified piece. I could not see any one of them vying for the spotlight. The show was a great example of an ensemble piece.
The play itself is of course a classic, and a time tested part of the theatrical canon. This is due to the skilled writing of Oscar Wilde. The dialogue is quick and witty, often very funny. The characters all seem to have very distinct and well developed personalities, while at the same time poke fun at very stereotyped characters. The content of the play remains interesting because it is a commentary on the frivolity of high society and class- subjects that are still relevant and often satired today.
I thought that the director, Barb Blackledge, did a fabulous job of taking this classic piece of theatre and making it her own while remaining loyal to the original concept. She chose to set in in the 1920s instead of the original 1880s. This unique and interesting vision was evident throughout the play; the set was 20s art deco, the costumes were indicative of the time, as was the music. For scene changes, jazz music played and actors danced on and off with set pieces. It all lent to a very jazzy, fun, 1920s feel, which fit the light and fun mood of the play. There was a moment in the beginning of the second act that I felt was especially interesting. She had the actors physically "rewind" and replay the last few minutes of the end of the first act, and then continue on. This was due to the fact that she decided to cut Act II in half and only have one intermission instead of the original two. I thought that her choice to "rewind" and replay was an interesting and fun one. It brought the audience back into the world of the play by reminding us what we had just seen, and then moving on. I thought it was very creative and fit in well with the mood.
The light design was very well done and quite appropriate. The actors appeared to be well lit, and the scenes outside in the garden were lit as though it were daytime. I did not feel distracted by the lights at all, which is an important feature of a good light design. The sound design was also done quite tastefully. The music all fit well to the time period and the mood of the play. In one particularly impressive sound effect, they made it sound as though Jack was running up the stairs and into a room over the heads of the audience. The costume designer also did an excellent job. All of the costumes were period, and each gave a little clue to the personality of the character. For instance, Algy first appeared in a purple suit, a clue to his flamboyant and eccentric personality.
Overall, my experience with this performance was a very positive one. Tickets cost $8 for students and $14 for adults. Personally, I thought this performance was well worth the cost of a ticket. I thought that the quality of the actors and the design elements was that of a very high end college production, which is definitely what The Importance of Being Ernest was.

What's New on the Great White Way

As is usually the case, there are a multitude of shows available to see on Broadway right now. Currently, it seems that the top ticket sellers are Billy Elliot, Memphis, and A Little Night Music. Other popular shows right now are The Lion King, Wicked, Jersey Boys, The Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, In the Heights, and Finian's Rainbow, Mamma Mia, Mary Poppins, Chicago, Rock of Ages, Hair, Next to Normal, and White Christmas. Tickets for these shows are available on multiple websites online, such as,, or If one prefers not to buy online, reserving tickets with the theatre box office itself is possible, but the recommended strategy is to buy from a discount ticket supplier online. Not only is it more convenient, but also often much cheaper.
Out of all of the popular shows right now, the one I would most like to see would probably the A Little Night Music. I really enjoy Sondheim, and the run on Broadway is currently starring Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Desiree Armfeldt. Angela Lansbury is one of the absolutely favorite actresses of the stage (maybe not the screen, but definitely the stage). The show is playing at Walter Kerr Theatre in New York and just opened on December thirteenth. The show was written by Hugh Wheeler, with music by Stephen Sondheim. This current incarnation is directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Lynn Page. David Farley designed the costumes and the set, an impressive feat due to the importance of the elaborate costumes, and Hartley Kemp designed the lights. In addition to Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the cast includes Alexander Hanson, Aaron Lazar, Erin Davie, Leigh Ann Larkin, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, and Ramona Mallory. The run of A Little Night Music on Broadway has had a good deal of success among critics. Catherine Zeta-Jones's performance has been praised numerous times in the reviews, as has Angela Lansbury's apparently incredibe portrayal of the aging process onstage as Madame Armfeldt.
Another show currently running that I would love to see is Hair. It is currently playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theater in New York. It opened on March 31, 2009. The production, written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, was directed by Diane Paulus. Choreography was by Karole Armitage. Lights were designed by Kevin Adams, sound designed by a company called Acme Sound Partners, set designed by Scott Pask, and costumes designed by Michael McDonald. The current cast includes Gavin Creel as Claude, Will Swenson as Berger, Caissie Levy, Sasha Allen, Bryce Ryness, Vanessa Ray, Darius Nichols, Kacie Sheik, Andrew Kober, and Rachel Bay Jones. This revival has met incredible commercial and critical success; more so than any previous attempt at a revival. The critics are calling it breathtaking, exuberant, powerful, and flawless.
Currently on Broadway, there is a little something for everyone. There are a multitude of revivals, so there are options for lovers of more traditional fare. There are new musicals, appealing to those who are looking for something new and exciting. Many different musical tastes are also being catered to. Hair offers 60s rock, Rock of Ages offers 80s music, Chicago offers jazz, White Christmas offers the big band sound..the list goes on and on. In my opinion, this time could be called the Golden Age of Broadway due to the incredible variety and the awesome success of all the different genres of musical theatre.

Hair: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical

The Broadway musical "Hair" has been described as "a celebration of life, a love letter to freedom, and a passionate cry for hope and change." I think that that is a great summary of just why this musical speaks to me. I've listened to the soundtrack over and over, and I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to see it-and be thrilled to have a chance to work on it.
Set in the turbulent times of the late 1960s, Hair centers on a group of young hippies in New York including Berger, the leader, Claude, Sheila, Crissy, and others. The group takes on the feel of a Native American tribe, and searches for a new way, a way to change their world. They question authority, question society, tune in to Eastern philosophy, and live by a philosophy of peace and love. At times, they are forced to fight for liberation and freedom, but are "reborn" after the struggle. In one scene, the group attends a Be-In (a gathering of hippies common in the 60s, featuring music, speeches, marijuana, psychedelics, and a sense of community) and the men burn their draft cards in protest of the war and in symbolic gesture supporting freedom and peace. Claude, however, pulls his card out of the flame, unsure of his feelings about his place and serving in the war. The musical also feature a drug-induced trip sequence that turns bad for Claude because of his fears of the hippie society, his fears of the establishment, and his impending service in the military. Eventually, Claude is called to service, and he has to face that he will not be able to enjoy the pleasures of the lifestyle he's been living once a part of the establishment. There is the image of Claude in uniform, lying on a black sheet, symbolic of him leaving for war. The show ends on a high note, sailing back into its predominantly joyous tone for the end, when the whole group sings the joys of the hippie lifestyle.
Hair introduced a new niche to the world of musical theatre- it was the FIRST rock musical. The score is full of the rocking beats and psychedelic tunes common to the music of the 1960s. This opened up a place in the realm of the theatre for rock music and future rock musicals. Hair was also a commentary of the social environment of the times. It celebrated the rebellious and free spirit of the young people during the era of change and brought insight into their philosophy.
Hair was written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado with music by Galt MacDermot and lyrics by Ragni and Rado. It opened off-Broadway on October 18, 1967 at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre, where it was directed by Tom O'Horgan. Interestingly, the play is set in October of 1967-it was very much a play of the times and for the times. After six weeks at Papp's, it moved to Cheetah's Discotheque, where it had to be performed with no intermission so the disco dancing could start at ten, and was seen by a long list of celebrities, including Barbara Streisand. After the Cheetah engagement, it was rewritten and restructured and thirteen songs were added, bringing the score to a total of thirty-three numbers. The show was largely recast, with 6 actors from off-Broadway making to to the Broadway production. It opened again on April 29, 1968 at the Baltimore Theatre, where it was hugely successful with audiences and critics and ran for 1750 performances. It was the 4th longest running musical on Broadway in the 1960s. There were at one time ten Hair companies on national tours. There was a brief revival on Broadway in 1977, but it ran for only one month. It has had much success in Australia, Germany, Denmark, Holland, France, Italy, Japan, and, since the Berlin Wall came down, has travelled for the first time to Poland, Lebanon, the Czech Republic, and Sarajevo, where ABC's Nightline discovered a very powerful production of the show amidst a great deal of war and suffering. Hair finally made it to South Africa with the demise of apartheid in the mid-1990s, where it opened to rave reviews and much acclaim. The show has never played in China, India, Vietnam, most African countries, and Antarctica & the Arctic. From these facts, we can see that, for the most part, where there is a spirit of freedom and liberation, this musical speaks to the people and connects with their desire for peace and love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Am I Blue Costume Design

Am I Blue is a play by Beth Henley set in New Orleans in the 1960s. The two main characters, Ashbee Williams and John Polk Richards, are two lonely young people. The night the play takes place, it is raining.

Ashbee's costume would consist of black opaque tights with red tube socks under a blue floral pattern dress. The dress would be belted (black belt) and have a pocket on each side. Over this, she would wear a yellow cardigan with two front pockets and buttons. Her hair would be in low pigtails. Because it is raining, she would wear red rain boots, a yellow rain coat, and on orange pom-pom hat.

John Polk's costume would start with a pair of sensible khakis. He would have a light blue button-down underneath a navy sweater. The sweater would have dark red and white trim around the neck, cuffs, and bottom. He would be wearing a dark red tie. His shoes would be brown loafers. He would have brown wire-framed glasses and short hair. He would wear a navy peacoat outside.